Fiction, Monologues, Plays & More
Carla stood on the rocks. Her long strawberry hair was pulled up in a swirl of curls on top of her head, early streaks of gray shining like highlights. It was odd: no wind. That didn’t happen often by the ocean. Very quiet. Her flowing, white dress spread around her, wrapping her aching breasts and aching belly in charm and grace. The sun was starting to freckle her shoulders and arms. She’d forgotten sunscreen today.
My wedding or my escape, she thought. Until she’d stood there, looking at the gently swaying sea below her, she’d thought they would be the same thing. Now she knew they were two different choices. She couldn’t really marry the waves and rocks below her. She could marry her baby. Or she could step over the edge and escape.
He hadn’t wanted the baby. He hadn’t wanted the baby more than he’d wanted her. She’d lived with him for 15 years and not understood how much he didn’t want a baby. The accident, he called it. But it hadn’t been an accident. It was fate. They were doing everything they needed to do to guard against it. It had happened anyway.
He’d wanted her to have an abortion, wanted their lives together to continue without intrusion by a needy stranger. He didn’t want the responsibility. And he wanted her to feel that way, too.
She’d always gone along. Secretly she might disagree. Sometimes she made choices without regard for his opinion. On little things. Personal things that didn’t make much difference to him anyway. But mostly, she just went along. Always had.
Always had. At sixteen, when her mother arranged for the abortion after her wild oats summer at camp with that sweet, sweet boy. At nineteen, when she arranged one herself, knowing she couldn’t face it alone and couldn’t bring a child into the world to live with the raging alcoholic she’d thought she couldn’t live without. Easy procedures. No real pain. No real emotion. Relief and ambivalence. The easiness hurt the most. It should have been harder.
But now, after years of intimacy with this kind, gentle, loving man, she couldn’t do it. She couldn’t get rid of it. Their baby. She knew too much now. And the baby was made from their love: how could she destroy it? It wasn’t right. She wasn’t sure how it could be right sometimes and not right other times, not this time. But she knew it was true.
He’d left. He ran away. Angry and hurt. Like a child whose best friend goes to the ball game with someone else.
She was angry, too. What was wrong with him? Who was he? She’d thought she knew him. How could he demand such a sacrifice? She found herself questioning every joyful moment she had felt loved by the guy. Wondered if he ever truly loved her. She was dizzy for days. Blame it on hormones. Blame it on the pain. Whatever. The ground kept shifting beneath her feet.
For days she couldn’t get out of bed. What for? The stranger growing inside her would probably never forgive her for a father-less life. She couldn’t imagine another man, some other stranger, sharing her life. She was too old now. 42 was too old to become a mother. Fat and grotesque too, now, although she might be able to retrieve some of her figure after birth. Less likely because she was too old now. No one would ever want her again. She couldn’t function without him. He’d made sure of that. She’d let his choices guide their life together on the things that really mattered. Until now.
After 10 days, she got up out of boredom and started doing what she had to do. As the months passed, as the baby inside her grew, she felt less alone. She would love this child. This little girl.
She decided to have a wedding. For herself and her child, before it was even born. A redefinition of marriage. Two people vow a lifetime bond. To have and to hold. Didn’t have to be defined by sex. If marriage was defined as the start of a family, a mother and daughter should be able to marry each other. And someone else could join, maybe, at a later date and become part of their family. Screw the natural order of things.
It would be a private ceremony: just her and the baby, God and the ocean. She researched wedding dresses, buying every bridal magazine out there. She found styles she liked and designed the perfect dress. She made it herself. Spent a fortune, both in time and money.
She talked to her unborn daughter, wrapping her arms around the ever larger belly that held a sacred prize. She felt contented. When she didn’t feel hysterical.
Her mood swayed in a constant pitch. Perhaps it was wrong to bring a child, especially a female child, into this world of pain and humiliation and violence and disease. The little girl would have to deal with Global Warming and shit like that. Politicians. Televangelists. Brutal bosses. Betrayal by loved ones. Embarrassment by boys. Degradation by men. If that was the worst. There would be mean girls on the playground. Rough boys that made her cry. There could be pedophiles and teachers who just wouldn’t like her for no reason. People who would ignore her. People who would hurt her.
Her mother would no doubt hurt her.
And sex. The horrors of sex made her more afraid than the joys made her hopeful. AIDS. Chlamydia. Vaginal warts. Herpes.
Or she might be autistic. Or disabled. Or blind or deaf. Wasn’t that unfair? Was she horrible to worry about that?
And the little girl would grow up. Probably hurt other people sometimes and hate herself sometimes, and hate her mother, too. If not immediately, later. Her own mother had suffered that sixteenth year. A frightened woman disappointed by her daughter. She’d made her mother cry. What about karma? Karma could be a bitch.
Regret could be torture.
Then the baby’s foot or hand would press outward, stretching, preparing for her entrance. The foot would be so perfect, so tiny, so beautiful, her eyes would blur and she’d wipe them so she wouldn’t lose sight of the miracle.
She couldn’t decide on a name. Too much pressure. No one to bounce ideas off of, except the kid in the belly, and the little one didn’t offer much input on the subject. It got to the point where she decided she’d have to wait until they were formally introduced, face to face. She hoped that would do it. That she’d somehow know which of the gazillion names she’d considered would fit. Make sense. Be true.
One month before the due date, she put on her enormous wedding dress and drove herself out to the sea cliffs. She’d always loved this spot. She’d done up her hair and put on makeup, a look created for her special day in a department store. She decided to go barefoot.
The air smelled exotic. Salty and thick. The humidity curled up the loose tendrils of hair on her neck. She felt radiant. As she maneuvered her swollen body and wedding dress out of the car, she noticed the photograph stuck in her visor. It took her breath away. Eclipsed her radiance.
Kitty had been her dog. An old, cantankerous animal, not very dog-like at all. More of a cat in a dog’s body. Hence, “Kitty.”
Kitty had drowned in their swimming pool. Old, partially blind, slow to react, Kitty had probably tried to take a drink of water and fallen in. Too weak to swim, afraid of the water to begin with, Kitty had drowned. She hadn’t found Kitty until morning. Neglectful. Irresponsible. She’d let her dog die. She’d gotten annoyed with Kitty and made her stay out all night.
How could she be a mother?
She knew she wasn’t thinking clearly. She stood with her eyes closed for several minutes. When she opened them, they were haunted. And she was afraid. Afraid for her baby’s future. For her own.
So, standing at the edge, a little too close, she wondered what she was going to do. In every way. Including the next few minutes. The next few steps.
Taylor Ashbrook’s current favorite quote about writing: “Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.” By one of her favorite playwrights, Tom Stoppard. A born and bred “Theater Geek,” Taylor aspires to write more than she actually manages to put words down on paper. Having written mostly with partners for live theater projects, she hopes to someday write a novel she would enjoy reading. Currently, she’s working on a dark, full length play – sans partners – just to get it out of her head. Except she takes a lot of breaks to direct, act and produce. Taylor has been a Member of The Eclectic Company Theatre, except for a couple brief years, since 1990.